Monday, September 4, 2017

Back to School by Christine DePetrillo

It's Labor Day and I've been back to laboring in the classroom for about a week now.  Funny how in the middle of July I can't even picture myself sharing office space with twenty-five small humans, but after a few days back at it, it's like I never left.

Sure, it's a new set of students with a new medley of needs and talents, but the essence of the job doesn't change.

Unless you dig deep and make it change.

That's my goal this year. This is my nineteenth year teaching and I've been growing ever more dissatisfied with what the profession has become. When I think back to when I first started, I remember all the... what's the word?

Umm... rhymes with sun...

Generally brings smiles...

Leads to true learning...

Oh! I remember! The word is FUN!

We used to embark upon learning adventures that stimulated our minds and made the days pass quickly. Sometimes too quickly! No one was over-stressed. No one was anxious. No one was moving at warp speed because there was just too damn much to cover in 180 days.

And math... oh, sweet, math used to be such a delight to teach because 2 x 2 always equaled 4 and you didn't have to show you knew that six different ways with sketches and charts and essays and Google slideshows and puppets. Now I look at math instruction and wonder where it all got off track. I used to get fifth graders who could tell you their multiplication facts faster than they could tell you their names. Now they stare at the ceiling as their fingers spring into action to COUNT by seven, eight times, to get fifty-six.

Half the time they don't even get fifty-six!


Anyway, this year I've vowed to get back to my original teaching philosophies. The ones that used to inspire children to do well, have confidence without being a snob, and be generally nice people. I've read a few professional books over the summer, all of which have talked about growth mindset. I've also encountered quite a few mentions of helping students find their genius.

"Find your genius."

Yes, that's become our fifth grade motto for this year, because as the great Jane Goodall said, "Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference." If we help students find what they are good at, what they are passionate about, what makes them truly happy, we aren't only doing them an incredible service, we are also creating potential world leaders.

And I think we can all agree that we are in desperate (like apocalyptic-level) need of that.

I want to be chilling on my couch, watching the news, and hear stories of people doing fabulous things to make this blue marble a better place. I want to know some of those people. I want to have had a hand in raising those people.

I want to teach the future's superheroes.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Are students back to school where you live? What are your hopes for these young minds?

Go check out my books at I dare you.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Great post, Chris. What's happened I think is people who think they know what's best, really don't, and they need to get out of the way and let those who do, well, do. Future leaders it is! Best of luck in that endeavor.

Jannine Gallant said...

Kids here went back to school last Thursday. For the first time, I didn't have that first day of school thing going on in my house. One daughter went back to college in August, and the other goes later in Sept. They both have such different interests and plans when it comes to higher education. I think it's important to teach younger kids that there isn't one "right" path, that there are many ways to find success and happiness. I like your idea of finding their own genius. We could all use that!

Leah St. James said...

Ditto what Margo said. Anyone who thinks teaching in public schools today is easy needs a reality check. Sounds like you have a solid plan for your lucky kids! Have a fantastic year helping each find his/her genius!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Chris, you are my superhero. With your attitude and energy (and motto), you'll have a great year. I left teaching after 23 years to try to change the system/curriculum to fulfill your motto. My, how the system resists such a focus! You'll make the biggest difference, child by child, in the classroom. And yes, here in CA, the students have returned to teachers like you, I hope!

Andrea Downing said...

Hats off to you, Chris. Most of us can remember a teacher who made a real difference in our lives. I'm sure you're one of those. Have a great year.

Diane Burton said...

Most of the schools here in Michigan open tomorrow. It's a state law that school doesn't begin until after Labor Day--to help tourism. So that tells you where the priorities are.

I taught full-time for 10 years, subbed for 3 or 4 years when my kids were older. Helping children find their genius is a remarkable endeavor. I see the teachers my grandkids have and admire them for encouraging those young learners. With all that teachers are expected to do besides teach the curriculum, I marvel that you are able to cram everything in during the day. Hugs and best wishes.